When Roslyn Johnson says goodbye to her fifteen-year-old granddaughter as she leaves for school at 6:30 every morning, she worries about the hour-plus commute that awaits her.
“It’s pitch dark. So it’s scary and you’re on pins and needles because so much goes on today and you can’t take anything for granted,” Johnson said. “So I’m just afraid until she gets home. We all are.”
Her granddaughter Lemia is just one of the 32,000 city students that rely on MTA transportation services to get to school, according to data from the transit agency. Education advocates say that poor bus service translates to long commutes that have a negative impact on students and their families, often along lines of race and class.
Only some city schools students are eligible for yellow bus service, such as students with disabilities and elementary students who live more than a mile away from their zoned schools. Middle and high schoolers have school choice – there’s no connection between where they live and where they learn. About three-quarters of them receive reusable, laminated MTA passes from their school to use between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Johnson’s four grandchildren all attend different schools, so driving them around the city each morning isn’t an option. Lemia takes two MTA buses from their East Baltimore home to the Baltimore Design School in Greenmount West. The trip takes roughly eighty minutes each morning and up to two hours in the afternoon, when she travels outside of rush hour service.
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